Bloom returns to Island wilderness

One woman's conservation dream preserved in Clayoquot Sound through donation to Nature Conservancy of Canada

Clayoquot Island looms in the foreground in this aerial shot looking south toward Tofino from Clayoquot Sound.

Clayoquot Island looms in the foreground in this aerial shot looking south toward Tofino from Clayoquot Sound.

The island sits at the mouth of Clayoquot Sound, one edge of it a mile off the busy Tofino waterfront, the other fronting the yawning Pacific Ocean.

Tall, moss-bearded evergreens, damp, tangled underbrush and endless waves pounding the sand bars and rocky outcroppings that mark its shores make it the epitome of rugged Vancouver Island beauty.

Some would have arrived here in 1990, discovered the zoning encouraged development, and swooned over the dollar signs in their eyes.

Susan Bloom saw a different kind of opportunity.

A generation after purchasing Clayoquot Island and nurturing it into a protected slice of West Coast heaven, Bloom has now ensured it will remain that way for generations to come.

On Monday, the steward of this ecological and historical jewel announced she was ceding ownership of the Island’s wilderness portion to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

NCC regional vice-president Linda Hannah said it has been an honour to work with someone with those values.

“I think we need to celebrate that choice,” Hannah said. “She’s a very quiet, deeply principled individual. I’d like to applaud her for taking a different path.”

Also known as Stubbs Island, Clayoquot Island sits near the brink of Pacific Rim National Park to the south and is the gateway to the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve to the north.

Bloom has donated approximately two-thirds of the island (its wildest 93 acres) to the NCC, while retaining ownership of its more developed portion. According to Hannah, the property is unique among NCC holdings and an ecological treasure trove.

A dense old-growth and mature second-growth Coastal Western Hemlock forest collides with four-meter thickets of California wax-myrtle, a vulnerable shrub found only in the coastal regions around Ucluelet and Tofino. Sand dunes and thick eelgrass beds provide habitat for the great blue heron, black oystercatcher, Pacific geoduck and Brandt geese.

The island hosted the first European settlement on the west coast of Vancouver Island — a fur trade outpost established in 1855. It then evolved into a fishing village of about 400 people with a hotel, school, jailhouse and beer parlour. It served as the area’s commercial hub before eventually being overtaken by Tofino. Schooners stocking for a journey across the Bering Sea anchored offshore and a sizeable Japanese community existed on its western end prior to the internment programs of the Second World War.

The community had disappeared and the property had fallen into neglect through a series of private owners by the time Bloom purchased it and set about cleansing it of bottles and other refuse.  She established a few small off-the-grid outbuildings and a heritage garden on the old townsite, built a boardwalk through the woods and made sure the rest of the island was left to exist as nature intended.

Hannah thinks it is a fascinating story in how, after 150 years of use, it is now returning to its natural state.

“To go about re-wilding it is a neat circle,” she said.

Public use of Clayoquot Island will continue to be by invitation only. The caretakers who tend to the gardens and other upkeep will remain its only residents. The NCC will spend the next year taking inventory of the property and developing a ecological management plan, funded again by the generosity of its former owner.

Bloom declined an interview request and the NCC took pains to deflect any questions that might infringe on her privacy. She is a resident of B.C. but not of Tofino, does not spend as much time on the property as she used to and is no longer young.

She did, however, release the following prepared statement.

“From the very first time I visited and then became the owner of Clayoquot Island, my goal has been to protect the island from any more development, to preserve it in its natural wild state,” she said. “My recent lifetime goal is to see that this beautiful land, steeped in Canadian history, be placed into safe conservation hands and cared for in perpetuity.”

Hannah hopes Bloom’s generosity and commitment to conservation will inspire others.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Ms. Bloom to help her realize her vision,” she said. “Hopefully this will pave the way for others.

“We have so much. We can’t take anything for granted.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni’s McGiffin brothers revive Cubs baseball at 55-plus

The boys of summer are 55-plus now, but back on the baseball field

The intersection at 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Safety improvements planned for Port Alberni intersection

10th Avenue and Dunbar Street is an “intersection of concern” based on incident data

Members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations conducted two checkpoints on Monday, May 10, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints in territory

Access restrictions come after forestry incidents

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read